In Britain, Teachers ‘Expect Less From Black Pupils Than Their White Classmates’
Black middle-class school pupils and their parents are treated as if they know less about education than their white counterparts, a new study has found.
Parents questioned for the University of London study said they felt compelled to dress extra smartly when meeting teachers and one claimed she felt it necessary to put on a white accent when attending school governor meetings. Researchers at the university’s Institute of Education interviewed 62 middle-class, black, Caribbean parents asking whether their race and social class made any difference to their children’s experience of education.
The parents claimed despite having similar qualifications to white middle-class parents, teachers would treat them as if they knew less about their children’s education.
They also believed teachers felt that their children would not perform as well as white pupils.
One parent, a college lecturer called Jean, described the experience of attending a governors’ meeting.
‘So the governing body communicates in a very white, middle-class language … They forget themselves and start making these derogatory remarks about parents and I sort of sit there thinking ‘oh, so this is it’.
‘You see very much what their core beliefs are.’
She told the Guardian newspaper: ‘White middle-class parents often presume an entitlement to a good education for their children and to educational success.
‘Black middle-class parents are there to protect their children and insist on high standards.
‘Their own negative experiences of school, the labour market and wider society, on account of their race, means that they recognise that they do not have the same security of entitlement as their white counterparts.
‘Black middle-class parents with whom we spoke often find it necessary to actively demonstrate their knowledge about education, their interest and their capability as parents to white teachers in order that they be engaged with as equals.’
One parent said she wrote to her son’s future headteacher to let him know she had very high expectations of her child.
Another said a teacher had appeared surprised to find she had thoroughly researched her daughter’s learning difficulties.
Another parent, social worker Eleanor, said: ‘You find it helpful sometimes to use your status, what job you do … People treat you differently.’
The study entitled The Educational Strategies of the Black Middle Classes will be published on the Institute of Education’s website later this year.